Thoughts From An East Sider

October musings from a Rhode Islander

East Side Monthly Magazine ·

No October surprises, but I do have some thoughts, just in time for the crisp weather.

The new streetlights on the East Side are awful. I know, the city is saving billions of dollars installing these LEDS, but they’re ugly and make our neighborhood streets look like a hospital corridor. I see the light, and don’t like it.

I first noticed the lights this summer. I was reading on my sofa and looked out the porch windows to two white garage doors that were unusually bright. I figured a car’s headlights were pointed in their direction. Wrong. The LED streetlights turned the doors so white they glowed in a spectacular way.

The glare is offensive. Bring back the old yellow lights. One of my favorite paintings is Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, which portrays four people – two men, a woman and a soda jerk – in a downtown diner at night. The pale greenish light makes the streets look mysterious, as they should be at night. The bright white of LEDs leaves nothing to the imagination.

One good thing about them: our streets are so bright now there’s no need to use a porch light at night. I’ve noticed that other homeowners have caught on too. Our houses are darker, but our streets are lit up 24/7. The future is here, and I fear it.

When I was a kid we had one lamppost on our block – the centerpiece of an island we used for hide-and-seek. The lamppost was base: “Olly, Olly, in come free,’’ I’d shout, as I raced in from my hiding spot in the yew to tag the post. The night sky was so dark I could catch fireflies. No chance of that happening on the East Side now.

I rewatched two movies not long ago that are perfect: Room with a View, a romance set in Italy and Victorian England, and No Country for Old Men, a thriller based in west Texas that is really a study of evil. Best line from View: “Miss Catharine, you have flowers in your hair.’’ The best line from No Country is a reference to the psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh, “He’s got some hard bark on him.’’

What made the movies amazing is that every scene was a virtual short story, which I missed when it ended. Still, I looked forward to the next scene, right to the closing credits. This brings me to that three-sheets-to-the-wind debate: What’s better? A great book, or a great movie?

My son Henry is in a band, The Minors. They used to be called The Black Ties – guess why – but the new name is catchier. Most of the members are baseball players. Henry tickles the ivories. Will plays the guitar. Casey is on bass. Gabe, drums.

They are a jazz band – “Fly Me to the Moon’’ is one of my favorites – although they can play anything if they set their teenage minds to it. They first performed at their school, but have now broadened their venues to art exhibit openings, Shirley Temple cocktail parties and backyard barbecues. I am a devoted roadie.

Not long ago, I went to a performance at an art opening in Pawtucket. The paintings were okay, but The Minors were the belles of the ball. “Who are these kids?’’ guests asked, as they slathered brie on their baguette. That gig led to another, and then another. In my dreams, I see the band at a Christmas party on Blackstone. Guests milling about sipping whiskey and Hot Toddies. Bow ties and red velvet shoes. Ruddy cheeks. Henry whispers, “One, two, three,’’ and the band launches into a jolly rendition of the theme song from A Charlie Brown Christmas. Move over, Linus Van Pelt.

To book a gig, you can email me at References available upon request. No, you cannot pay the guys with gently used bikes or anything involving Pokémon Go.

One last thought: If you know what an Aerodactyl is then bless your sweet heart. Don’t worry. It’s only a craze.


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